My Father in heaven, holy is Your name. May Your will be done in me today.
Read Nehemiah 8:13–18
13 On the second day of the month, the heads of all the families, along with the priests and the Levites, gathered around Ezra the teacher to give attention to the words of the Law. 14 They found written in the Law, which the Lord had commanded through Moses, that the Israelites were to live in temporary shelters during the festival of the seventh month 15 and that they should proclaim this word and spread it throughout their towns and in Jerusalem: “Go out into the hill country and bring back branches from olive and wild olive trees, and from myrtles, palms and shade trees, to make temporary shelters”—as it is written.[a]
16 So the people went out and brought back branches and built themselves temporary shelters on their own roofs, in their courtyards, in the courts of the house of God and in the square by the Water Gate and the one by the Gate of Ephraim. 17 The whole company that had returned from exile built temporary shelters and lived in them. From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this. And their joy was very great.
18 Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God. They celebrated the festival for seven days, and on the eighth day, in accordance with the regulation, there was an assembly.
a Nehemiah 8:15 See Lev. 23:37-40.
New International Version (NIV)
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ReflectWhy do we light fireworks on July 4th and eat turkey at Thanksgiving? Rituals aren’t just for the religious. Why?
The festival celebrated in this passage is known as the “Feast of Tabernacles” or the “Festival of Booths.” The people camped in “booths” for the week to remind them of the temporary shelters they lived in when God brought them out of Egypt (Lev. 23:33–43).
In “acting out” this story, the Israelites had a physical reminder of how God freed them from slavery, and of their utter dependence on him in the wilderness. Perhaps it also reminded them that at that time Jerusalem was just a distant dream—a holy city in a promised land—and now here they were living in it. God frees, God provides, God keeps his promises.
A similar “acting out” for us would be communion. Every time we eat the bread and drink the cup we are giving ourselves a physical reminder of how God has freed us from slavery to sin. We are acknowledging our dependence on him for everything, and we are looking forward to dwelling with him in our own holy city, with the assurance that God keeps his promises.
Go through the communion observance in your mind. (Look up 1 Corinthians 11:23–26 if you need a refresher.) Remember Christ’s sacrifice today.
Jesus, thank You for dying for me and freeing me from sin. Holy Spirit, thank You for Your presence in me.
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